For my first Old West painting post, I'd like to establish my Western bona fides. I lived in Nevada for 4 years and Arizona for 11. My wife was born in Tombstone and we met at the University of Arizona. In the desert, I once grabbed a snake by the tail and got bit. I used to catch lizards, mark their bellies with blue dye and then release them back into the wild to see if I could catch them again. Prospecting with my dad, we once found an old crate of TNT. For brevity, I'll cut myself short and say I still miss the wide open spaces, the mountain skyline and the subtle beauty of the West. Painting Old West figures won't take me back to the place I love, but it's a pleasant reminder!
This commission is for a friend who's going to run them under Great Escape Games Dead Man's Hand
. The figures are loaded with detail and each is a character in their own right. I thought the challenge here would be to keep a tight and earthy palette. It turns out that painting 36 unique characters is the bigger challenge. There are no economies of scale after you prime the figures!
For each Old West post, I'd like to tell a western flavored story. Today's is about Gary Gygax's Boot Hill
, my 2nd favorite RPG of my youth after D & D. Employing two 10 sided dice for character abilities and combat, the game was ahead of its time. It didn't catch on like D & D in part because it was brutally unforgiving. While character attributes leveled up after gunfights, you were still as susceptible to death by a bullet after 20 gunfights as you were in 1. And once you died in Boot Hill, there were no spells or clerics to revive you. You were simply dead and had to start over.
Being young and blessed with loads of time, I spent many hours filling up binders with campaign materials. I rolled up hundreds of characters, drew up maps and missions. All the background material paid dividends every time my friends sat down for a game or campaign. Funny thing, kids who were too cool to play D & D were happy to play Boot Hill!
The summer before we headed off to college, my best friend Pat asked to start a campaign. From our first game, Pat said he wanted to find Doc Holliday and challenge him to a gunfight. I had a secret "house rule" that fictional characters couldn't find & kill the legends of history. So I kept Pat on a wild goose chase by making sure Doc was always one town away. The hunt for Doc became the thing
that summer and we had many great adventures along the way. Over that summer, something amazing happened that I never saw before or since. Pat's character wouldn't die. Against all odds, he lived through every gunfight & diced his way out of every tough spot. He played so well, so luckily and for so long that his stats topped out and he became nearly invincible.
The week before we left for college, I let Pat find Doc Holliday. Even though Doc tried to talk him out of it, Pat wouldn't rest until they had a shootout. Pat was faster and better than Doc. He got off 3 shots that all found their mark before Doc could pull the trigger. Badly wounded, Doc's ability to shoot back AND hit were greatly diminished. I pitched the dice and against long odds, Doc got off a single shot that hit. I pulled out Bio One
to find where the hit was, diced it and it was Pat's head. A headshot is never good but it could be the ear, the jaw or a grazing wound. I diced it again and it came up Pat's forehead. There was no saving throw. Just like that, Pat was dead and the campaign over. Pat fell into a stunned silence. Seeing how much it shook him, I felt quite badly about having rolled up the bullet that killed him.
This ended our Boot Hill playing days. When I'd suggest a new campaign, Pat would say "What's the point? I'll never top that." He was right. Sometimes, he'd reminisce about his character, look into the distance and say "Remember when...?" 30 years later, I still remember.